Despite carrying an air of the outsider about them, it’s actually hard to think of many contemporary outfits that have earned as much goodwill and credibility within the black metal scene as Urfaust.
Lacking the safety net provided by a strong and relatively unified native scene – not to say that The Netherlands doesn’t have talented musicians, but obviously it’s not yet Norway, France or Sweden – they have perhaps inevitably pushed forward in an impressively individualistic manner.
Although they’ve been ever-active with live performances and split records – not to mention their fast-expanding range of t-shirts since they basically issue a new design for every show they play – the band’s last full-length, Der Freiwillige Bettler, was actually released in 2010.
Despite featuring some notably bombastic moments, it shares much with Empty Space Meditation thanks to its combination of black, doom and more ambient moments, and is a better point of reference than last year’s Apparitions EP, a more crawling and conceptual-feeling work. The new album, however, feels noticeably more unified and straightforward, though the tone has shifted somewhat toward revelation and wonder as opposed to darkness and malevolence. A wall of simple but powerful synths provides much of the focal point here, with guitars often taking a supporting role; even the slow, methodical drumming is more upfront in the mix. Meditatum III is even somewhat reminiscent of an 80s soundtrack sci-fi soundtrack, as strange as that may sound. That’s not all the record has to say, of course. Much of Meditatum II is underpinned by faster-paced percussion and howled vocals, contrasting with the quasi-religious chanting that the band have become known for. Meanwhile Meditatum V has a much meaner sounding riff at its heart, resulting in a much more stomping and less celestial feel. The sixth and closing track offers perhaps the most exotic flavour, the band broadening their horizons and texturing the music with clean guitars and Eastern overtones. A natural progression and a rewarding listen overall.